It was a case of wrong place at the wrong time for an assault suspect accused of punching two people, including a teenager, seemingly at random on a Manhattan street.
That's because a passerby — who just happens be a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt — chased him down and helped bring him to justice.
Ro Malabanan was heading to work Wednesday when he saw the suspect sucker-punch a construction worker in SoHo before running away. In an exclusive interview with NBC New York, Malabanan said he was worried the suspect would attack someone else — so he decided to intervene.
"I walked up to the guy that (was) hit, to check to see if he was OK. He said he wasn’t okay ... Immediately, my martial arts side kicks in and I'm like, let’s go stop this guy," Malabanan recalled. "Who knows what he’s capable of... My jiu-jitsu training kicked in, and I immediately just jumped on his back, he tried to fling me off of him. I had what's called the seatbelt position, which helped me to drag him down to the ground."
After pinning him to the ground, the martial arts expert stayed on top of the suspect until police arrived. Malabanan's good Samaritan deeds were captured on video, which quickly went viral online.
Malabanan was born in the Philippines but grew up in New York. He teaches boxing, he studies jiu-jitsu — he knows how to defend himself. Now he's just thankful his training “kicked in” at the right time.
"I don’t think I'm a hero, just doing my part for New York ... We New Yorkers are willing to help strangers out because that’s what New York is all about," Malabanan said. "I'm just really grateful I was able to stop someone and put my martial arts to use. Being able to help people, to do it in the real world, is incredible."
Police said the 28-year-old suspect assaulted two people in unprovoked attacks.
And in true New York fashion, Malabanan says right after the cops arrived, he didn't want to wait around — because he was late for work.
"Typical New Yorker,” he said with a laugh.